If you’re a Gen Xer (or a millennial) you may face criticism from your baby-boomer parents for your debts and financial troubles.
And the statistics seem to back their arguments.
Gen Xers are more likely than baby boomers to choose “enjoy and live for today,” over “save and plan for tomorrow” as a financial philosophy, according to a study by Allianz Life Insurance.
But Gen Xers struggle with the “enjoy today” part because of the “plan for tomorrow” part. The study found them “overwhelmed about their financial future.”
And no wonder! Look how much more debt Gen Xers have compared to baby boomers:
- Mortgage debt: 60% more
- Student loan debt: 140% more
- Credit card debt: 33% more
Yes, you may need to work on your money attitudes and habits.
But before you beat yourself up too much for your financial situation, consider the other contributing factor: In many ways, life is now more expensive.
Here are six things you’ll pay more for than your baby-boomer parents did, and possible ways to reduce those expenses.
1. A College Degree
The real cost of education continues to climb.
Measured in 2015 dollars, the average cost of attending a four-year private college in the 1975-76 school year was $10,088, compared to today’s $30,405. The average cost for a public four-year college went from $2,387 to $9,410 per year.
In other words, the real cost to attend college more than tripled — and those figures include only tuition and fees, not room and board.
That might explain some of the additional student loan debt, right? Here are some resources to help you reduce the cost of an education:
2. A Home
There are many ways to measure home prices, but the research all agrees the long-term trend is higher.
For example, one recent chart shows today’s median home price is at least 33% higher than 40 years ago, when adjusted for inflation. It may partly explain why Gen Xers have more mortgage debt than baby boomers.
But what can you do about it?
Start by looking for a smaller home.
There’s been a clear trend toward larger homes, which explains much of the increase in average price. Here are some other things you can do:
3. Health Care
Since 1980, health care spending has doubled in the U.S., as a percentage of GDP.
Forbes recently reported health care expenditures per person are projected to reach $10,000 per year this year.
And if you don’t have employer-provided health insurance, you get to pay for it all out of pocket (directly or through insurance premiums).
Here are some things you can do to spend less on health care:
Grocery prices have risen faster than the general rate of inflation, according to the USDA.
And if you want to eat healthy, you’ll definitely pay more than your parents did. Fresh fruits and vegetables cost about 40% more than 30 years ago, while the real prices of dairy products, fats, sweets and beverages have actually dropped.
Here are some resources to help you reduce those grocery bills:
5. Child Care
Maybe your parents hired cheap babysitters when you were young, or left you with relatives.
But even if they paid for regular child care services, they paid less. The US Census Bureau says average weekly child care costs went from $84 in 1985 to $143 in 2011, adjusted for inflation.
What can you do to reduce the cost? Start by reading these posts:
6. A Car
Look at new car prices 30 years ago and now, and then adjust for inflation.
The trend is clear: Cars are more expensive. Part of the reason for those higher prices is that today’s cars are higher quality and come with more extras.
So, one thing you can do to spend less on a car is to look for ones with fewer extras, as well as those that are simply cheaper.
To save even more money on cars (and operating costs), be sure to read these posts:
So, Is Life is More Expensive?
Even in non-essential areas, some items’ prices have risen much more than inflation.
For example, the average price of a ticket to the Super Bowl was $91.52 in 1970 (adjusted for inflation), which is expensive enough. But by 2014 it had risen to $1,250!
There are exceptions. TVs, for example, have become better and cheaper over the years. And the inflation-adjusted price of electricity to power TVs has fallen, too.
Perhaps there are too many ways to measure prices and too many things to measure to have a truly accurate picture of the cost of living.
But some things clearly cost more. Fortunately, you can start your search for cheaper alternatives right here on The Penny Hoarder.
Your Turn: What could your parents afford that you can’t?
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).